Maybe you were snowed in … or maybe you procrastinate on everything. Whatever the case, if you still need to get presents late on Christmas Eve, you've got options, so don't panic.
Traditionally, 6 p.m. Christmas Eve has been the drop-dead deadline for buying gifts, but with a little bit of creativity, you can find nice gifts after that time at late-night drugstore chains, supermarkets, airports (if you happen to be traveling) and gas stations.
The pharmacy is the best bet for finding a last-minute gift for a child.
They stock popular toys, classic board games, crayons and many other items. You can find makeup, which is great for a teenage girl, and they also have a wide range of gifts for gadget-happy guys -- including iPod speakers, digital photo key chains and the world's largest universal remote control.
Many pharmacies also have photo kiosks. If you bring in the memory card from your camera, you could have a photo book in an hour for about $12.
Use Your Creativity to Make Gift Baskets
If you're traveling late on Christmas Eve, large airports have retails stores that offer lots of gift possibilities. DVD rental shops also sell DVDs, travel stores offer luggage, and you will even find vending machines from the likes of Best Buy and others that dispense iPods and digital cameras.
Smaller airports, though, may not have as many options, so you've got to be more creative.
If there's a food vendor open and you're desperate, pastries make an acceptable hostess gift. Or try the newsstand. Choose a selection of magazines, candy and a paperback mystery. I asked the newstand vendor if she had an shipping box from a colorful candy bar, and I used that as the base for the my assortment. For $30 you could have what I call the "Guilty Pleasures Gift Basket."
Here's another scenario: It's Christmas Day. You're en route to the family gathering and the only place that's open is a supermarket.
It just so happens that many grocery stores now stock lots of food gadgets, so if you have a foodie on your shopping list, you're in luck.
But if you need a more generic gift, you can find that there, too. Grab some pasta, sauce, olive oil, wine and cheese and you've got the makings for a fine gift basket. But you'll need packaging. If you can find a basket, great! If you can't, any colorful box will do. I used an orange and blue tangerine box from the produce department.
Take the items, pay a quick visit to the floral department for some cellophane paper, pay, wrap and go!
Last-Ditch Option: The Gas Station Mart
If you're among the desperate few who don't have supermarkets, airport stores or pharmacies as options, you may have to turn to the ultimate last-ditch gift-shopping venue: the gas station convenience store.
Sometimes gas station marts stock gifts for children like toy cars and trucks. And lots of adults love getting lottery tickets -- with their potential for a lifetime of luxury -- as presents.
If that doesn't appeal to you, don't despair: Exercise your creativity and make a car maintenance gift basket from the automotive products in the store.
If these options fail, and you don't find what you're looking for, well, all these venues have ATMs. You won't have to rush around selecting just the right gift for the personalities on your list. Just pay a quick visit to the machine, and you can give the one gift that's guaranteed to please: cash.